I loved this episode. It had the perfect balance of game play and narrative, while still giving us a good ‘ol fashion #blindside. The real game changer though? BRAD FUCKING CULPEPPER! Who saw that coming?

We kick off the episode with a gift from the Survivor gods; the dreaded tribe swap. I’m a firm believer that the tribe swap is where you find the real players in Survivor. If you’re as good as you say you are, you should be able to get yourself out of any combination of players, right? And yes, I’m aware that sometimes it’s just a bad draw and you’re totally screwed no matter what you try to pull. But every winner has some luck on their side and that usually comes through with the swaps.

We’re also switching from two tribes, to three tribes! This is likely the new staple for Survivor, so aspiring players should take note. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of the start-from-scratch tribe yet. My theory is in the long run, more players won’t focus on shelter or camp-life in the beginning, because who knows if they’ll be there on day 7, and that could ruin some of the fun in the early game. Plus, it now seems like the producers are purposefully putting that tribe at a disadvantage. Last season they had an extra player. This time? You get barely any rice. Thank god for Ozzy, am I right?

Our new Nuku tribe looks stacked as all hell. JT, Malcolm, and Michaela are challenge beasts no doubt. Plus Sandra and Aubry will do wonders with puzzles. And Varner is… also on this tribe. Let’s be honest, he’s going to be the one they sit out for the next challenge. He’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to challenges (though he is the funniest). But at least he’s got JT on his tribe, who is the only former Nuku tribe member against five former Mana members.

Speaks of JT… he literally strands his tribe in the middle of the ocean to go idol hunting. You cannot make this up. His grand plan is to get everyone far from the beach to snorkel and fish, and then somehow go back to camp while they stay there. It sounds crazy, but crazy is what JT knows best (just ask Russell). And he almost gets away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling… uhm, well I guess if it weren’t for his tribe mates realizing exactly what he was doing. Oh well!

As we head over to the new Tavua tribe (our green friends), there’s a clear oddball in the group – Troyzan. He, like JT, pulled the shit buff and found himself at a 5-1 disadvantage. However, he’s shown himself to be pretty damn perceptive to the other players. He knew what Tony was up to (although.. who didn’t?) and now he’s calling Andrea on her BS. I don’t see this as a big setup against Andrea, but Troyzan is getting some good light in this season.

The big moment on Tavua (besides Ozzy and Cirie finally working together, thank God) was Troyzan finding the hidden immunity idol clue in a bit of dramatic irony. The old Nuku members get together and talk about keeping on eye on Troyzan. They don’t want him finding an idol. Ozzy literally says, “He’s smart enough to know we’re all watching him.” But the funny thing is.. nobody was watching him. And he ends up with the idol clue! Brilliant editing, I must say.

Our new Mana tribe has the most balance to it, with a 4-2 advantage for the old Nuku members. HOWEVER, Tai sees an opportunity. With his new buddy Caleb joining him from the old Mana camp, he’s now the man in charge. He tells Brad to keep Caleb, you know for challenges and stuff. And then tells Caleb, “I told Brad to keep you. We’re good.”

I cannot say this enough, but Tai is a damn fool at this game. You can have an alliance with Caleb, people will likely know about it anyway. But let them come to you with their ideas and see if you need to sway them away. Nobody wanted to target Caleb right away, and why would you? The dude is a huge asset in challenges for the tribe. Why throw that away this early in the game? But now Tai is running his mouth about being close to Caleb and I’m smelling some fear toward that relationship. We shall see.

Also, quick side note because it was an amazing scene. We see the new Nuku members come to their new camp and realize it’s totally decked out (remember when Nuku had the chickens and the tool kit and Ozzy to help start it out?). The big focus is on the decorations though, because who has time to decorate whilst playing Survivor? Well I’ll tell you who, BRAD FUCKING CULPEPPER. Who knew the guy would be the one decorating his tribe’s camp? I certainly didn’t see that coming (#blindside). And what do you know, Brad starts decorating on the new Mana tribe too! Because why not?! This guy gets better and better.

We head back to the new Nuku tribe where JT feels he may be in danger (yea.. you think buddy? You literally stranded your tribe in the ocean, who were all together on another tribe already, to go idol hunting…). What better way to earn favor than to feed your tribe mates? And what better to feed them than the random goats running around your camp! HUZZAH!

JT and Malcolm actually do catch the goats, but second thoughts start coming in. These poor goats, a mother and her kid, weren’t doing no harm to nobody. Everyone starts to feel their conscience kick in. That is… except Sandra. She’s all for it. She wants goat for dinner and she wants it now. She says this while literally holding the baby goat… straight up savage. You know you’re a monster when the damn cattle rancher doesn’t want to kill the goats. She tries her best to convince everyone to eat the goat, but nobody can oblige. And why should they honestly? They have chickens… just eat the chickens! Done deal.

Challenge time! And this one is no joke. Find your way through a cube of bamboo shoots, hop over and under some hurdles, and then transfer water to a bucket across a net teeter-totter. The gate falls once enough water is poured in (which is only two buckets, by the way…. just two). From there, one tribe mate will untie slat puzzle pieces and the remaining two will solve the puzzle. It’s a challenge that is equal parts physical and mental and it gives physically weaker tribes a chance to catch back up.

Which is not what happens. Slow going Mana is last to the puzzle (though props to Sierra for untying knots like a badass) and they end in defeat. Mana is officially the cursed camp.

I have to mention, too, the immunity idol is not a game changer. The scuba mask, while very eclectic, is nothing like the other immunity idols that Probst has pulled out. It looks like Monica Culpepper (along with Brad, obviously) went antiquing, found it, and shipped it to Probst for the season. And the worst part? The secondary immunity idol is literally the stand that holds up the mask. I swear the producers totally forgot to get two immunity idols and just threw some rope on the stand to make it seem purposeful. LAZY I SAY!

Also, big kudos to Tryozan, who snags the hidden immunity idol. I love that they’re hidden at challenges because it really does require a LOT of bravery to grab that thing in front of your tribe and the other competing tribes! Troyzan sold it though, only nearly getting caught by Andrea. Job well done, sir.

Off we go to Mana where Caleb and Hali know they’re doomed. And they do what all Survivor: Game Changers would do! They scramble their asses off, make deals left and right, and… oh what’s that? They don’t do any of that? Well… what do they do? Stare at the ocean and pray it’s not them? Oh they do… oh. Real all-stars they brought back I see.

Caleb and Hali might not be plotting, but in steps our new puppet master – BRAD FUCKING CULPEPPER. The guy is so slick. He knows Hali is the easy vote, but the relationships between the three Koah Rong members is a little more than he’d like. Without Hali, he could be looking at a 3-2 disadvantage against them. Maybe Caleb is the wiser decision? BFC (that’s his new name, I just wrote it down and it felt right) goes to Tai and begins pulling the strings…

Brad: Who do you want out tonight?
Tai: Well I think it’s best for Hali to go. I’m close to Caleb and he’s strong in challenges.
Brad: Right, but maybe you should think about doing what’s best for YOU.
Tai: I like Caleb.
Brad: Right… but maybe it’s not good for your game to keep Caleb. We should stay strong without him.
Tai: Maybe I don’t need Caleb…
Brad: I think you’re right, we should vote Caleb.
Tai: Yea, we should vote Caleb. Tai needs to do what’s best for Tai’s game. This is my time.
Brad: There you go.

Alright alright, it’s not that hard to sway Tai. You just need to be the last one to tell him anything and he’ll go with you. But BFC takes advantage of that and he ultimately gets his way. Caleb is voted out, 5-1.

Y’all, the episode was phenomenal. I’m talking 9/10 and maybe even a 10/10. We’re starting to see some narratives come into play, we’re starting to see the real gamers emerge, and we’re about to see Jeff Probst be shook at the next tribal council. The game is on.

Also be sure to check out our Episode Recaps for Episode 1.1 and Episode 1.2!